“Always favor the question” is the very first sentence that comes to my mind when I think of Elie Wiesel—I hear his beautiful accent repeating this advice over and over to us.
When I found out Professor Wiesel taught at Eckerd College, I didn’t believe it. He had been such a big part of my upbringing—having grandparents who survived the Holocaust but never spoke of it—he was their voice. Every chance we had to watch him on TV or read his books gave us more insight into my grandparents’ journeys. I felt such a strong connection to him being French and Jewish; in a way, I had known him for years, and I sometimes would forget he had just met me!
I felt so close to him that one morning I brought him my grandmother’s famous “Lekach cake.” We sat down, chatted and ate cake together before class. Looking back, I just can’t believe I did this! I was having breakfast with a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate!
He was so easy to talk to. One time he asked me for my parents’ phone number in Paris and he actually called them! My mom will never forget that moment when she picked up the phone, and here he was just wanting to say hi and wishing them a happy holiday.
Being in his presence for three Winter Terms was a journey I will never forget; it was undoubtedly the most enriching time of my college experience.
I adored him and cherished every class we spent together. This time of my life was so stimulating; it was certainly a lot of work, but very exciting for the mind. The discussions and debates pushed me beyond what I ever thought my mind capable.
He listened so carefully to all of us, and he always said he was learning from us as much as we were learning from him.
I feel so privileged that Elie Wiesel spent a few months of his life with me; he was such an inspiration to favor the question, put others first and fight for injustice.
Thank you, Eckerd College, for the opportunity to meet Elie Wiesel; and thank you, Carolyn Johnston, for the exciting class topics, the open discussions and for always pushing me further in my reasoning.
—Cecelia Jochimek ’00